This week pro surfing fans have their eyes on Bells Beach, Australia, for the Rip Curl Pro, the longest running professional surfing contest in the world. Fact is, Bells beach is to surfing what Wimbledon is to tennis, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the renowned surfing tournament, which is the second stop on the ASP World Title race and the culmination of the Australian leg.
But next week all that attention will shift to Southern California as 96 of the world’s best surfers, including Kelly Slater, are set to compete at Trestles, one of the most coveted waves in the country. They’re coming to do battle in the Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro, a Prime event that kicks off the competitive season in North America.
Prime events are different from World Title events, in that they don’t count to ward a world championship. But Prime events are every bit as exciting, if not more so, since they’re open to the top 100 ranked surfers in the world. By contrast, the Rip Curl Pro is reserved for only the Top 32.
Put simply, Prime rated events are where everything but a world title is decided. It’s where those with precious world title event seeds have to defend their status against a new breed. On the flip side, the young guns threatening to take the sport and performance to new levels get to take their dream shots at the world’s best, hoping to earn their shot at the Top 32.
Nike has freshened the pot this year by adding a solid gold railroad spike to the $40,000 first place prize. The value of the 20.39 ounce spike has been climbing steadily since it was completed just a few weeks ago. With the price of gold hitting an all time high yesterday and showing no sign of slowing, this trophy could keep paying off for years to come.
The trophy is just one more indicator of how Nike has been stepping up their efforts to support pro surfing in North America. They Oregon based powerhouse is now the biggest backer of pro surfing events in the United States, playing a huge role in the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach each August, and the Hurley Pro world title event back at Trestles in September, as Hurley is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nike.
Of course, 10-time world champion Kelly Slater has played a vital role getting surfing in the spotlight, and that may increase if he remains in the hunt for number 11, especially as the ASP world tour makes its first stop ever in New York City in September.
Photo of John Florence in last year’s Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro by Hilleman.